Leave the travel books and Internet printouts at home. We went for the human approach and talked with six concierges in six places to get their recommendations for don't-miss local delights.
GRAND HYATT KAUAI
RESORT AND SPA
1571 POIPU ROAD, KOLOA
1. Domingo immediately recommends an important site in modern American history as his top must-see for visitors to the island of Oahu: the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Free. 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu; (808) 422- 0561; www.nps.gov/usar
2. On the eastern side of Maui, drive along the ever-winding Hana Highway, a 68-mile road lined with waterfalls, hiking trails, and lush Hawaiian greenery. Beware: This twisty trip isn't for the weak of stomach.
3. The Big Island is home to one of the state's most startling (and other-worldly) places: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, where, depending on conditions, hot lava may flow just inches below your feet as you hike. $10 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. (808) 985-6000, www.nps.gov/havo
4. On Kauai, watch for sea turtles and spinner dolphins as you cruise along the water to one of the state's many beautiful hiking destinations, the famous cliffs of the Na Pali Coast State Park (www.hawaiistateparks.org). If you prefer to hop on a catamaran to the area, Domingo recommends Captain Andy's Sailing Adventures (808-535-0830, www.napali.com). Another option is to speed into the sea caves on a Zodiac with Na Pali Explorer (877-335-9909, www.napaliexplorer. com).
5. Travel throughout Polynesia - from Hawaii to Tonga, Samoa, and beyond - by touring the re-created villages at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is an hour outside Waikiki. Domingo suggests making a full day of it: You can stay to watch the canoe pageant and then dine at the evening luau. (800) 367-7060, www.polynesia.com
6. Get your day started Hawaiian-style with breakfast at Kauai's Kountry Kitchen. Domingo recommends ordering the local favorite: macadamia-nut banana pancakes. 1485 Kuhio Highway, (808) 822-3511
SHERATON BUENOS AIRES
HOTEL & CONVENTION CENTER
PARK TOWER BUENOS AIRES,
SAN MARTIN 1225
1. The Recoleta neighborhood "is a great starting point for those who wish to walk around this land of paradoxes and contrasts," says Otalora. "The area sums up the body and soul of its inhabitants. Snobbery and spirituality. Fashion, frivolity, and luxury." Before you get lost in the contrasts, tour Recoleta Cemetery, where the legendary Evita Perón is buried. Free. Calle Junín 1790, 011-54-11-4804-7040
2. Calle Caminito Street, in the colorful La Boca neighborhood, is pictured on what "might be the most famous Argentinean postcard worldwide," says Otalora. "It has glistening orange, green, and yellow metal houses and an explosion of tango dancers, large concertina players, artists, and crafts."
3. Every Sunday, Dorrego Square is transformed into the San Telmo Flea Market, a great place to pick up antiques and where, frequently, you'll see a tango break out. Calles Defensa and Humberto Primo
4. See one of the world's finest collections of Latin American art at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, also known as MALBA. $10. Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3415, 011-54-11-4808-6500, www.malba.org.ar
5. Hop the Tren de la Costa at Maipú station for a 25-minute trip to the local amusement park, Parque de la Costa. 011-54-11-4002- 6000, www.parquedelacosta.com.ar
6. Learn more about the history behind the country's most famous dance at the World Tango Museum. Free. 666 Calle Maipú, 011-54-11-4345-6967, www.anacdeltango.org.ar/museo.asp
ATSUKO AMASE AND
KIM NAMEKATA, GUEST RELATIONS
2-10-4 TORANOMON, MINATO-KU
1. Visit the Asakusa district, where Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in the city, is neighbor to nearly 100 traditional Japanese souvenir shops on Nakamise Street.
2. Just 45 minutes outside central Tokyo is the 17-acre Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. Wander through approximately 30 buildings and learn about the architectural styles the Japanese have used throughout the past two centuries. Our guides add that this museum is not very well known to foreign travelers. 3-7-1 Sakuracho, Koganei City; 011-81-04-2388-3300
3. Another local favorite that foreigners don't visit nearly enough is the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, which features Japanese antiques. The museum sits in front of the Imperial Palace and is just 10 minutes from Tokyo Station. Ninth floor, Teigeki Building, 3-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku; 011-81-03- 5777-8600; www.idemitsu.co.jp/museum/english/index.html
4. Experience the elegance and simplicity of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in Hotel Okura's Chosho-an Tea Room. www.okura.com/tokyo/info/teaceremony.html
5. Learn what tofu is really all about at Tofuya Ukai, near the Tokyo Tower. Call ahead to reserve a table at this wildly popular restaurant. 4-4-13 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku; 011-81-03-3436-1028
6. If you'd like to try a traditional Japanese meal served on beautiful porcelain dishes, Amase and Namekata suggest spending an evening at Banreki Ryukodo, a hide-away-type restaurant. 2-33-5, Nanboku, Oedo Lines Azabu-Juban, Higashi-Azabu; 011- 81-03-3505-5686; www.banreki.com
HOTEL MONACO CHICAGO
225 NORTH WABASH AVENUE
1. Touring Chicago's architecture and history by boat is a must for any visitor to the city, says Rollins. Two of the top cruises are offered by Chicago's First Lady (312-902- 1500, www.cruisechicago.com), which is the official river cruise of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and Chicago Line Cruises (312-527-2002, www.chicagoline.com), which provides a historical flair, with docents trained by well-known local historian Mike Hogan.
2. "Guests just love" Bobby's Bike Hike Chicago, especially on fireworks nights, when pedaling around town becomes that much more special, says Rollins. River East Docks, 465 North McClurg Court; (312) 915-0995; www.bobbysbikehike.com
3. For Chicago residents, one of the bestloved summer traditions is to pack a picnic dinner (and a good bottle of wine) and head to Ravinia, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for an open-air classical concert. 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park; (847) 266-5100; www.ravinia.org
4. See flowers. Listen to jazz. Do it with ease. The Chicago Botanic Garden, a "colorful, beautiful, and peaceful place," says Rollins, has partnered with local hotels to give guests a complimentary ride out to the gardens for evening events. 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe; (847) 835-5440; www.chicagobotanic.org
5. While the Magnificent Mile is Chicago's most famous shopping stretch, Rollins also likes to point visitors toward shopping areas that have more boutiques and small shops. One of her favorite streets is Armitage Avenue, which features a designyour- own-handbag boutique, 1154 Lill Studio (904 West Armitage, 773-477-5545, www.1154lill.com), and an upscale petaccessories emporium, Barker & Meowsky (1003 West Armitage, 773-868-0200, www.barkerandmeowsky.com).
6. Chicago plays host to plenty of fantastic festivals and block parties from the late spring to well into the fall. Upcoming festivals include Mayor Daley's Kids and Kites Festival (May 3 and October 4), the Chicago Blues Festival (June 5 to 8), Taste of Chicago (June 27 to July 6), and Venetian Night (July 26). egov.cityofchicago.org
SOHO METROPOLITAN HOTEL
318 WELLINGTON STREET WEST
1. On your first night in town, Gualandi suggests you relax and settle in with a visit to the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel's Senses Restaurant. The 36-seat eatery is, remarkably, both sleek and cozy. (416) 935-0400, www.senses.ca
2. One of the city's newest destination areas for locals is the Distillery District. What used to be a 13-acre distillery is now home to shops, restaurants, a spa, galleries, theaters, and much more. There's no need to hop around town for a night that includes activities aplenty. Here, says Gualandi, you can walk the "nice old-fashioned cobblestone streets," grab a beer at a microbrewery, see a bit of art, and catch a dance performance or a play. www.thedistillerydistrict.com
3. The Royal Ontario Museum's new facade has everybody in town debating. Take a look at the ultramodern glass front, and get into the discussion. But no matter how you feel about the outside, make sure you don't skip out on all the treasures waiting inside. 100 Queen's Park, (416) 586-8000, www.rom.on.ca
4. People don't usually expect the barrels at Niagara Falls to contain wine, but the area has quietly turned into quite the region for great grapes and the bottles that hold their juice. An easy 90-minute drive from downtown Toronto, Niagara-on-the- Lake is home to 17 wineries (www.niagaraonthelake.com). Try ice wine, one of the region's specialties. Prefer to relax, sip away, and leave the driving to somebody else? Consider wandering the region with either Grape and Wine Tours (www.grapeandwinetours.com) or Grape Escape Wine Tours (www.tourniagarawineries.com).
5. It is clear from the joy in his voice that Gualandi isn't just recommending the elegant Chinese restaurant Lai Wah Heen because it's located at his hotel's sister property - he really enjoys the place. 108 Chestnut Street, (416) 977-9899, www.metropolitan.com/lwh
6. Thanks to its eclectic mix of shops and boutiques, Queen Street is one of the top must-shop areas in Toronto. Gualandi says the street features local designers and won't-find-them-elsewhere wares.
REO DAVIS, CONCIERGE
1685 COLLINS AVENUE
1. Lincoln Road has a handful of cafés that you'll want to try, as well as plenty of shops where you can lay down your plastic, but the real gem this street offers is the people-watching. "You never know what you're going to see," says Davis. "It's a hodgepodge of everything." Sip a coffee or a cocktail at Segafredo Café Miami Beach while you sit back and wait to see who wanders by. 1040 Lincoln Road, (305) 673-0047, www.segafredocafe.com
2. Taste a world of pan-Latin flavors in the small dishes served up at Ola at the Sanctuary Hotel. Davis is especially fond of the restaurant’s seviches. 1745 James Avenue, (305) 673-5455, www.sanctuarysobe.com
3. The Delano’s sister hotel, the Shore Club, is home to one of Davis’s must-visit clubs: Skybar Miami Beach. The waterfront location will leave you feeling like you’re “covered by the amazing Miami sky,” he says. And don’t be surprised if you see a celeb or two wander by — Davis says “everybody parties together in South Beach.” 1901 Collins Avenue, (305) 695-3100, www.shoreclub.com
4. After a night at Skybar, book a treatment (or two) at Agua Spa at the Delano. No matter what treatment you sign up for, remember to make the most of it: After it’s over, slip outside to the spa’s terrace and keep the calm going.
5. Don’t call it a mall. That’s just not good enough. The focus is on luxury at the Bal Harbour Shops. It’s like “New York, but very condensed,” says Davis. 96th and Harbour, www.balharbourshops.com
6. And then there’s the beach, the beautiful beach of South Beach. “The water is clean and warm,” says Davis. “The sand is light brown, and it just feels good against your skin.”